We all have our own definition of a “the risk-taker.” They’re the skydivers, the entrepreneurs, the ones who pack up and move to a foreign country – just because.
But here’s the thing: life itself is risky business. In one of Helen Keller’s famous quotes, she proclaims life to be “either a daring adventure or nothing at all,” because “avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.”
So is it any surprise that developing our creativity requires intentionally taking some risk? Earlier, I wrote about why practicing curiosity is the basis for living a creative life. And once you start looking at your life and work through the lens of creativity, taking a little risk is a natural next step.
There is always a risk in trying something new, saying no, or choosing to see something in a new light. This is the nature of art. But the good news? We’re not talking about jumping out of planes – yet.
As a wedding planner and florist for the last 20 years, my job has been to take as much risk out of the equation for my couples as I possibly can. I spend hours creating a timeline, following up with vendors, and making sure they follow through on the bride’s requests. But at the same time, I need to take creative risks to continue growing and innovating in my ideas, designs and approaches.
Risks can be taken in a safe way. Take a class on a new technique, try something new, and push yourself to learn new things. When it works – great! You can feature the outcome on social media, or pitch it to a client who may be interested in the concept. When it doesn’t work out as you had envisioned, that’s an opportunity to try again or apply your experience in a new way. Even Pablo Picasso, the renowned Spanish artist, was an advocate of the trial-and-error approach:
“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it,” he said.
And I promise, this approach is not just for artists.
Daring to try something new, to fail, or to make that big life change that has been calling to us is the way we create the kind of life we really want. And here’s the thing: sometimes it is far riskier to not experiment, make that choice, or follow that idea.
Just think about how easy it is to become wrapped up in our identity and success at work. In getting that next rave review or promotion, often at the cost of our own sleep, nutrition or personal time. What is the cost we are paying to stay safe? What are we missing as a result?
In many ways, we put our very selves at risk for the sake of our job. Being willing to take the emotional risk to re-evaluate our lives, understanding everything we do and our motivation for doing it all, leads to clarity and growth. When we’re able to anchor into who we are at the core, to find value in the work we do – and not the accolades it provides – then we can tap into a deeper sense of purpose and connection.
That’s the space where creativity runs freely.
As Walter Anderson said, “Our lives improve only when we take chances – and the first and most difficult risk we can take is to be honest with ourselves.”
This is where we begin to “show up” in our own lives; to engage our minds, emotions, problem-solving skills and full creativity. Our vulnerability is where the magic starts.
To grow, both in our careers and within ourselves, we must take creative risks and engage with our world, with the beauty we see and the people we encounter.
Here’s a good way to start, from Eleanor Roosevelt: “Do one thing every day that scares you.”